The album contains primarily original material, both vocal and instrumental, and was recorded with some of the finest pickers and singers in bluegrass music. Though the personnel changes from one cut to the next, the core band of Michael Cleveland on fiddle, Clay Hess on guitar and Kent Blanton on bass is largely consistent. Josh McMurray adds banjo on several tracks, and Scott is joined by Bobby Osborne for a duet on Bobby’s Cherokee Lady.
Napier calls on two previous employers for lead vocals. Dale Ann Bradley and Marty Raybon are each out front themselves for a song, as is Scott’s fellow Kentuckian Don Rigsby.
But the real meat of the record is Napier’s mandolin playing and his original tunes for the instrument. You might think of him as a mando-chameleon given how many styles he can approach with authenticity and authority. In his stage and studio roles with Lost and Found, Scott invokes the sound of his legendary predecessor Demsey Young, yet in other settings he can be a passionate and fearless improviser on flights of 8-string fancy.
The music here reflects his interest and skill across stylistic boundaries. There is hard-driving bluegrass from the Monroe school, country blues, slick modern bluegrass, and fiddle-tune style picking. Scott’s original songs and tunes are first rate as is the playing throughout, by all involved.
We had a chance to chat with Scott about this project, and asked him to select a few songs to highlight on Bluegrass Today. I was initially taken aback to learn that All Out Front was his solo debut, given the spit and polish of all aspects of the CD.
“Yes, this is my first recording. I’ve been selective about putting out something in the past. I wanted to look back, years from now and still have something to be proud of. I took this opportunity to record with some of my favorite artist/musicians that I’ve come to know, and work with over the years.”
The album opens with one of Scott’s compositions, Blue Barn, a mandolin tune with a rock/blues edge.
“My process for writing instrumental music starts with a title or phrase that gets stuck in my head, until I attach a melody to it. In the town where I live, there is a barn that is painted wildcat blue (only in Kentucky). I wanted it to have a ‘bluesy’ theme, so I wrote it in the blue chord of E.”
Blue Barn – Play Now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/blue_barn.mp3]
One that is close to Napier and his extended family is Life’s Hourglass, a very personal tale of a life well lived.
“A true story song that my wife Melinda wrote about her grandparents. I thought Dale Ann Bradley would be perfect for this song. I sent her a few demos, and this was the very one she picked.”
Life’s Hourglass – Play Now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/lifes_hourglass.mp3]
And of course, there has to be a Bill Monroe tune, even when it isn’t in the outline.
“I love to record live! Musicians playing off of each other, creating on the spot… moments that seem to get lost in multi-tracking. I didn’t plan to cut this, the mood just hit us, and it turned out to be one of my favorite tracks.”
Bluegrass Stomp – Play Now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/bluegrass_stomp.mp3]
Scott Tichenor, site administrator of the popular Mandolin Cafe, had this to say when he received his copy of All Out Front:
“I don’t typically comment on new releases, but I have to say this is a spectacular recording and one I’m going to enjoying listening to for a long time. Wonderful originals that sound like instant classics. Crisp, inventive playing and an all-star band to swap licks with. This is easily one of the finest solo recordings of the past several years in bluegrass in my opinion. Very highly recommended!”
Napier is currently on tour out west with Lost and Found, and copies of the CD can be purchased at any of their live shows, or from their web site. As soon as they make it back home mid-March, Scott promises to get copies to bluegrass retailers and CD Baby. It should be available on iTunes shortly thereafter as well.
This is a good’n, folks.